Friday, March 06, 2009

High Crimes

The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir on war crime charges over the conflict in the Darfur, as reported by ENS and many secular sites. Most of the mainstream reports have remarked that this is the first time a warrant has been issued against a sitting head of state.

Ever since hearing this news, I’ve been conflicted.

First, there’s no doubt in my mind that President Bashir is a war criminal who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. The deaths and atrocities in Darfur are grabbing the headlines, but he’s also responsible for much of the devastation in southern Sudan, where my diocese is active. His government intentionally targeted churches and schools for their bombing raids, in an effort to destroy the stable structures of that culture.

Everyone paying attention knew that the ICC warrant would probably have terrible repercussions. Indeed, Bashir has now evicted many NGOs and relief organizations from Sudan. A dear friend of mine has had to leave, for reasons that are not yet clear to me. My diocese is scheduled to send another team into southern Sudan in May, and we are watching this very closely.

News reports have made much of the fact that Bashir is the first “sitting head of state” to be charged with war crimes. I ask you: Why did they single him out, while completely ignoring the war crimes perpetrated by U.S. President George W. Bush? The man ordered or condoned torture. It seems clear he is responsible for the slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens.

An NPR report a couple of nights ago quoted an official of the Hague as saying they were about justice, not expediency. They surely knew that violence would break out in Sudan, but they issued the warrant regardless. Why did they not have such a “pure” sense of justice when evaluating the actions of the former President of the United States?

Why did the ICC feel powerful enough to act against the President of Sudan, but not against the President of the U.S.? It’s a puzzle to me.

And it’s personal to me, because I know people in Sudan who are now suffering.

No, this isn’t a post in which I have clear answers. Mostly, I am just puzzled, grieved, and questioning.

Addendum: Thanks to Ann (in the comments) for pointing to this NY Times editorial by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.


Blogger Ann said...

Bishop Tutu writes here. I go with him.

3/06/2009 9:08 PM  
Blogger Joanna Depue said...

So many governments have shown outlandish, outrageous, hideous hate and violence toward one another - the list could go on and on. The arrogance of those in authority who govern to intentionally destroy lives is criminal. I don't know if God has a despicable scale. Which is more repugnant - a powerful man condoning the slaughter of people in another country or his own? Is it JUST as despicable to tacitly stand idly by or, more twisted still, to turn away as if nothing were happening of legitimate concern? It is puzzling indeed. I do know that it is far less difficult to let atrocities occur if a face and name is never seen, spoken or acknowledged. If in these deliberations a unified mind and heart is moved from 'my brothers keeper' to 'my sister' and 'my brother' relationship, love, God help us - compassion - will rise from fragments of our past sins, regardless of our ranking on the authority chain. We can still live in hope that Gods grace and our examples can move hearts to choose to make war against our sisters and brothers no more.

3/06/2009 10:35 PM  
Blogger Cany said...

Oh pleeeeeeeeeze! Arrest Bush? You must be kidding.

That would involve the heads of state of many, many nations who were colluding with him.

Easier to go after one relative wee killer who probably acted alone than after a giant of a killer that got the best and brightest to kill with him in not one but probably many instances.

As I have always said, there are two rules of law: One for the powerful and rich, and one for everyone else.

3/06/2009 11:30 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks, Ann. I've added that link into the blogpost.

I know, Cany, I know. And I agree about the "two rules of law" observation.

Those are more theoretical questions than I'm prepared to deal with here, Joanna. I just want to know why Bashir is fair game, but atrocities committed by the U.S. aren't subject to the same justice.

3/07/2009 9:00 AM  
Blogger Laura Toepfer said...

You might also want to look at this article:

I have mixed feelings as well, but the one thing I would say is that if the Sudanese government chooses to kick out the NGOs, then that is the Sudanese government's decision. It should not be blamed on the actions of other people.

Did the ICC handle this well? I do not know. I don't know enough about the situation. Should the ICC also issue a warrent for W? Possibly, but that is a separate issue from whether or not one should be issued for al-Bashir.

Mostly I'm just sad for the people most affected by this, who can least afford it. I wish things were better, that governments cared more about people, and that the world were a better place.

3/07/2009 3:32 PM  
Blogger Laura Toepfer said...

One more article, with the suggestion that Bush is next. We'll see.

3/07/2009 3:35 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thank you, Laura. You did a better job than I. I'll confess I am having a melange of emotions. Yes, I hope Bashir may be brought to justice. Yes, I grieve that the desperate people of Sudan will probably pay the highest price (through removal of the NGOs and thru violence from Bashir's government). And, yes, I want there to be an accounting someday of the atrocities Bush and his cronies perpetuated against the Constitution of the U.S. and against innocent civilians in the world (especially in Iraq and Afghanistan).

Let us all be thankful I don't have the job of President Obama or Secretary of State Clinton. Me, I'm just angry at injustice ... with no clear sense of what justice should look like in this situation.

And I'll look at the links you sent, Laura. Thanks!

3/07/2009 4:17 PM  

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